The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) received considerable praise this week from the Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson MP, who toured the GWCT’s Allerton Project Research Farm in Loddington, Leicestershire, where research, conservation and practical farming go hand in hand.
Mr Paterson’s visit to the Allerton Project was timely, as it gave him an opportunity to elicit opinion on the latest CAP greening measures.
Dr Alastair Leake, the GWCT’s policy director and head of the Allerton Project said, “We are basically in accord with the latest CAP ‘greening’ measures and Mr Owen welcomed our positive response.”
“However, the government does recognise that there is more to do on the detail, especially the three crop diversification rule, which Mr Paterson describes as ‘bonkers’. It is his view that although this might tackle problems on the continent it will not work here where the landscapes are different and it particularly penalises smaller farmers.”
With last winter’s flooding uppermost in his mind, Mr Paterson was particularly interested in the GWCT’s soil and water research, which is looking at ways of mitigating the problems of diffuse pollution in our rivers and streams from farmland run-off. The results of zero-till on most of the fields, together with settlement ponds and beetle banks blocking erosion pathways are improving water retention in fields during drought and help to reduce flooding in extreme weather conditions.
While the GWCT’s Allerton Project achieves maximum yields in its fields, a major aspect of the research is to ensure that wildlife benefits too from intensive management of non-cropped areas such as field margins. The results of earlier trials that saw songbird numbers soar due to the control of major nest predators was of keen interest to the minister. Of equal interest was the GWCT’s research on over-winter supplementary feeding of grain to farmland birds, which is now an option in agri-environment schemes and is proven to increase survival during the leanest months of winter.
Dr Leake explains, “Mr Paterson is under no illusion that to increase wildlife, we need greater management and greater care. I think the research that we carry out at the Allerton Project provided ample food for thought. Getting the balance right between intensifying the production of food while protecting the environment and nature means that we need to press on, be brave and be more ambitious with agri-environment schemes. Mr Paterson certainly gets that.”
Photocaption: Pictured with the RT Hon Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, (from left): Phil Jarvis, the GWCT’s Allerton Project Farm Manager, Minister, Owen Paterson MP (centre) and Teresa Dent, Chief Executive of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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